NOW WASHINGTON'S school board -- slightly modified for the better by Tuesday's elections -- should move on to a number of important tasks. First there is the selection of a new superintendent. What should the board look for? The most obvious need is for an administrator skilled in improving student performance in secondary schools.
Too many seniors in the city's schools still graduate with skills far below average. They are unprepared for any job requiring a mastery of basic academic skills, and their education often ends right there. This ties into another move that the school board should make: greatly expand contacts with the University of the District of Columbia, offering those students continuing opportunities to improve their skills and employment opportunities through remedial work.
Board members also should address the fact that the city's schools have the oldest teachers in the Washington area. Many of them will retire in the next several years, and roughly 500 new teachers will be needed every year until the mid-1990s. But the city also has the lowest starting salaries, while facing stiff competition from surrounding jurisdictions. Incentives, higher pay and a waiving of the city's residency requirement should be considered. The board also should take a lead in rallying attention to drug problems by the city's religious communities, other elected officials and civic organizations.
The city's public schools have made impressive gains over the past several years, thanks to key board members and outgoing Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie. The new board should seize the opportunity to quicken the pace.